UP Me Ka Baa ? Bhojpuri rap rocks eastern Uttar Pradesh
Rathore admits her rap 'UP Me Kaa Ba', accessed by nearly five million people so far, was provoked by BJP MP Ravi Kishen’s song ' UP Me Sab Ba' ( UP has everything)
She is in her twenties, lives in a Bihar village and has been singing Bhojpuri songs for several years. The last few weeks have however made Neha Singh Rathore a household name in parts of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar because of a Bhojpuri rap, ‘UP Me Kaa Ba...’, which has gone viral. Till a fortnight ago, the video had been viewed over four million times and had been liked by almost 200,000 people.
Manoj Bajpayee’s Bhojpuri rap ‘Mumbai Me Kaa ba’ (September, 2020) appears to have inspired her own rap ‘Bihar Me Kaa Ba’ in September-October the same year. This time she appears to have been sufficiently provoked by BJP Member of Parliament, Bhojpuri actor and singer Ravi Kishen who released a promotional song for the BJP claiming UP Me Sab Ba (UP has everything).
In an interview to Ajit Anjum, Rathore admits her rap UP Me Kaa Ba was provoked by Kishen’s song which painted a rosy picture of Uttar Pradesh. Herself a graduate of Kanpur University, Rathore said she had lost people close to her during the pandemic and had first hand experience of the mismanagement in Uttar Pradesh. “How can they even claim that nobody died of Covid or shortage of oxygen,” she wondered while stressing that she was largely apolitical and has no political allegiance.
In contrast to Ravi Kishen’s promotional rap video, showing highways, airports and buildings, Rathore’s video is stark and without frills. “I don’t have a set, a team of producers or any kind of help. I write my own lyrics and request someone from the village to come and play the dholak while recording. Why, I am often distracted by flies while recording,” she told Anjum.
But the rap went viral because of the sting it carried. It refers to Hathras rape and murder, the murder of a businessman in Gorakhpur, the Lakhimpur Khiri incident, unemployment and also takes a pot shot at politics of temples: Ram Rajya ke jhanki ba/ Kashi-Mathura baaki ba!
Some lines which stung BJP supporters in Uttar Pradesh to the quick, provoking them to troll Rathore, were as follows:
Corona se lakhan mar gaile
Lashan se Ganga bhar gaile
Kafan noche Kukkur Bilaiba
E Baba, UP Me Kaa ba?
(Corona took lakhs of lives; dead bodies filled up the Ganga while cats and dogs pawed at shrouds and bodies).
Mantri ke betwa badi rangdar ba
Kisanan ke chhati pe rongat motor car ba
E chowkidar, bolo ke jimmedaarba?
UP me Kaa ba?
(The minister’s son is quite a little terror; he thinks nothing of running over farmers; Who is responsible for what is happening in Uttar Pradesh? What’s happening in UP?)
The more the trolls hit out at her, the more popular the song became, its hummable tune and simple but direct message leaving no ambiguity. Though upset at vicious and vulgar trolling, Rathore declared that she would not be initimidated.
“I am not going to get cowed down,” she said and promptly came up with a second version of the song. She calls herself a folk singer and a people’s poet and points out that she had sung a song on unemployment also: Rozgaar debaha ki karba drama/ Kursiya tohra baap ka na ho (Power is not your inheritance that you will do as you please; are you going to ensure opportunities to work or continue with your theatrics?).
Daughter of an architect, her YouTube channel has become a major hit.
While songs and poetry have always been powerful tools in voicing dissent and protests (Vir Das’ ‘Two Indias’ and Gujarati poet Parul Khakkhar’s ‘Shav Vahini Ganga’ besides the poem ‘Hamein chahiye Azaadi’ during the anti-CAA and NRC protests being recent examples), the rap is a new and welcome addition, says IPTA’s Rakesh from Lucknow.
(This article was first published in National Herald on Sunday)